ZocdocAnswersHow should I treat my stiff neck?

Question

How should I treat my stiff neck?

Think I slept wrong and woke up with a stiff neck that is on day three of causing discomfort. What can I do about it? Should I get a massage to help ease the tension? Will it go away on its own eventually?

Answer

Sorry to hear that you are having such discomfort in your neck. The kind of pain that you are experiencing is relatively common - it is called paraspinal muscle spasm, and it occurs when muscles that run up and down along the side of the spinal column became tender and inflamed, usually due to strain from bad posture, "sleeping funny," etc. Fortunately, this kind of pain does tend to get better on its own, although sometimes it takes longer than you might expect. Mild cases will resolve in a few days but more severe cases can take weeks. The most useful thing you can do is try to stay as active as possible, as people who stay active through this problem tend to recover more quickly. Also, anti inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or naproxen are very helpful. You may apply heat or cold for symptomatic relief as well. Go see your primary care doctor if things are not improving in a few days, or if you have any serious symptoms such as numbness or tingling or weakness in your hands or feet, as these may be signs of a more serious problem. Furthermore, sometimes prescription medications are needed for the pain, and your doctor can discuss this with you.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.